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The Complete Guide To Google Business Profile Reviews

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The Complete Guide To Google Business Profile Reviews

If you’re like most people, you prefer to work with businesses you trust.

That’s why we often turn to our family and friends to ask for referrals when looking for a particular business, product, or service.

And if we can’t find a referral from a person we trust, we frequently turn to online reviews as the next best thing.

Online reviews have become an integral part of the buyer’s journey, so much so that 77% of consumers now say they ‘always’ or ‘regularly’ read online reviews when browsing for local businesses.

And the pricier or riskier the product or service, the more people pay attention to the reviews.

Google Business Profile Reviews Are Front And Center

Yes, there are plenty of sites with reviews including Yelp, Facebook, Better Business Bureau, and many more.

But because most people start out by searching on Google, they will often see Google Business Profile reviews front and center at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Screenshot from search for [best watches for sale in iowa city], Google, January 2022

It’s important that local businesses have Google Business Profiles that show a good reputation with solid, 5-star reviews from happy customers.

Why Reviews Matter To Local Businesses

Online reviews are important to local businesses for several reasons.

First, consumers rely on online reviews to help decide which local business to choose when it comes to products and services.

According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Study, 92% of consumers said that negative reviews make them less likely to use a business.

Additionally, 79% of people said they trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation from friends or family.

So those little stars that show up on your Google Business Profile Knowledge Panel do impact what searchers think about your business and how they make purchasing decisions from your local business.

Another reason reviews are important is that they impact local rankings.

According to Whitespark’s 2021 Local Search Ranking Factors report, reviews can influence both the Google Local Pack and Local Finder rankings as well as local organic rankings.

Over the years of this report, there has been a steady increase in the perceived importance of reviews.

Whitespark Local Ranking Factor StudyScreenshot from Whitespark.ca, January 2022

The Google Business Profile Help Guide on How to improve your local ranking even says that reviews can help your local rankings:

How Google determines local rankingScreenshot from support.google.com, January 2022

Reviews can also make your Business Profile Knowledge Panel stand out more to searchers because Review Snippets can appear.

This gives potential customers a quick idea of the good points and highlighting other customers identified in their reviews.

Review snippetsScreenshot from Google, January 2022

Review snippets show the keywords most mentioned in your Google Business Profile reviews.

(These snippets are selected by an algorithm.)

The most common words and phrases related to the reviews you received appear in bold.

If you’re using the Google Maps App, you get more detail with the Review Snippets.

The common keywords in reviews are in bold and you can also see the number of people who have left reviews with that keyword in their reviews.

Review Snippets Maps AppScreenshot from Google Maps App, January 2022

All of this means you should do your best to get your happy customers to leave 5-star reviews on your Google Business Profile.

How Do You Access Reviews In Your Google Business Profile?

There are three ways to manage Business Profile reviews.

Since most merchants only have one Business Profile, Google makes it easy for you to manage your Business Profile directly from Google search.

You can also access your Business Profile from the Google Maps App.

The final way to access and manage your Business Profile is through the Business Profile Manager.

Note: Despite rumors that have been floating around, Google is not stopping its investment in the Business Profile Manager.

They even have a dedicated team focused on merchants with multiple profiles that are looking into making the dashboard even better!

Pro tip: Google will be retiring the Google My Business app in 2022, so now is the time to start using one of the three ways to manage Google Business Profiles and stop using the Google My Business App.

To get to your reviews in Google search, simply search for your business name or enter the words [My Business] in the search bar.

You will see your Business Profile manager panel on the left-hand side. From there you can manage your profile.

Manage Profile in searchScreenshot of Business Profile panel on Google.com, January 2022

To get to your reviews, click on Customers and then Reviews to start managing your reviews in Google search.

Manage reviews in searchScreenshot of Business Profile panel on Google.com, January 2022
Manage Reviews in searchScreenshot of Business Profile panel on Google.com, January 2022

You can also manage your Business Profile from the Google Maps App on your smartphone or tablet.

On the Maps App, you can either search for your business name or click on your account menu and then click on Your Business Profile.

Manage Reviews in the Google Maps AppScreenshot from Google Maps App, January 2022

Next click on Customers and Reviews.

From there, you can see all your reviews and manage them.

Use Google Maps App to access and manage your online reviewsScreenshot from Google Maps App, January 2022

You must be logged into your Business Profile email account when using the Google search and Maps App methods.

If you manage multiple Business Profiles, you can manage your reviews by logging into the Business Profile Manager.

Business Profile ManagerScreenshot of Business Profile Manager, January 2022

Click on the business profile you want to manage, then click Reviews.

 

 

Manage online reviews in Business Profile ManagerScreenshot of Business Profile Manager, January 2022

Alerts When You Receive New Reviews

When you get a new review from a customer, you’ll receive an email notification.

It’s a good idea to set a rule in your email program so that these emails jump out at you when you receive them.

New review email notificationScreenshot of Google My Business email, January 2022

If you use Google search to manage your profile, you’ll also see a notification of the new review in your Business Profile panel.

New review notification in searchScreenshot of Business Profile panel on Google.com, January 2022

And if you use the Maps App to manage your profile, you’ll also see that you have a new review there, too.

If you manage multiple profiles, log in to your Business Profile Manager, click on the business with the new review (or click the link in the email you received on your desktop) and click on Reviews to see your new review.

Reviews For Service Area Businesses Are Different

Normally, when a customer leaves a review for a business, they simply select the number of stars they think the business deserves (1 being the lowest rating, 5 being the best).

There’s a place where the person can write details about their experience and then there is a camera icon where they can upload a photo if they’d like.

Leave a review boxScreenshot of Review box, January 2022

But if you have a Service Area Business (SAB) where you go out to your customers’ location to service them – like a landscaper, tree trimmer, pest control company, garage door opener, etc. – the process for a customer leaving a review for your company may be a little different.

In many cases a customer can rate specific service aspects of your business, and these services are displayed directly on the Business Profile review form.

For example, if you run a landscaping company, your customers may see a review form that looks something like the one below:

Service Area Business ReviewScreenshot of Review box, January 2022

First, reviewers select their overall star rating for the business, then Google asks if they actually used the business.

Next, the customer is asked what services the company performed for them.

The reviewer can then share their feedback and upload a photo if they’d like to.

The services that show up in the review form come from the company’s Google Business Profile service list, the company’s website (if they have one), or the standard list of services based on the categories or other authoritative sources.

Tip: If there’s a service that’s not appearing in the review form that you’d like displayed, you can add it to your service list in the Business Profile Manager.

Service Review Details Can Help You Improve Your Business

Having this review information from your customers puts service businesses at an advantage and allows business owners to take that feedback to help improve their business.

First, you can see what words people mention frequently in their reviews – so you can see trends, both good and bad.

You can also sort the reviews by the Most relevant, Newest, Highest, and Lowest.

You can also see what service these reviewers hired you for, which is invaluable information.

Service Area Business Review SummaryScreenshot of Review box, January 2022

Additionally, in the summaries of the reviews, you can see “Positive” and “Critical” traits about your service business.

This gives you at-a-glance information about things you are doing right – and ways you can improve your business, process, or services.

See positive and critical comments in your reviewsScreenshot of Review box, January 2022

How To Read And Reply To Reviews On Google Business Profile

When a customer takes the time to leave a review for you, the polite thing to do is to reply to that review – whether it’s a good or bad one.

According to the BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey, when writing a review, 20% of consumers expect to receive a response (from the business) within one day.

Reviews from customers give valuable feedback on how your business is doing.

And even though no one likes to get bad reviews, negative reviews can draw your attention to areas in your business that you can improve on.

Things like an employee that may need help with customer service skills or a product that may not be working as it should, can be pointed out by bad reviews.

If you respond to negative reviews properly, you may even turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one.

Replying to a Business Profile review is as easy as going to the review and clicking on Reply.

Replying to a review in searchScreenshot of Business Profile panel on Google, January 2022

Note: When a customer writes a review for your business, they can even upload photos –  making reviews even more interesting than ever!

If you’d like to Edit or Delete a reply you’ve made to a review, simply go to the reply, and click on the three dots next to the reply and you’ll be given those options.

This works no matter which way you manage your Business Profiles.

Note: If you edit a review response, the customer will not be alerted of the revised response.

Edit reviews in Google Maps AppScreenshot from Google Maps App, January 2022

Keep in mind that when people see your Business Profile, they will see both the reviews left for your business and your responses to those customer reviews – so be very careful what you say in your replies.

For instance, when you get a 5-star review, responding is much easier.

Good reviews are easy to respond to!

Be gracious and thankful for positive reviews.

Express your appreciation that they are a customer of yours and thank the reviewer for taking the time to leave their feedback.

If you get a negative review, pause and step away from your computer before responding.

(A cooling-off period is always good if a bad review upsets you.)

Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. When replying to a bad review, be polite and don’t get personal.

Thank the reviewer for their opinion and apologize if necessary.

But if a situation was out of your control, feel free to explain that, too.

Depending on the issue, you may want to tell them that you’ll investigate the situation with your employees.

It sometimes works to suggest that an unhappy customer contact you directly to discuss the situation.

That takes the discussion offline (and can possibly turn the negative review into a positive one.)

Whatever you do, don’t attack the person online and do not share personal information about the reviewer in public.

Note: The example below is not the ideal way to speak to an unhappy customer.

Bad owner response to a negative reviewScreenshot from Google search, January 2022

The best approach is to handle negative reviews as best you can by politely responding to them.

That shows people that see the responses online that you truly care about your happy customers and those that may not have had the best experience with your business.

Most people are also aware that a business is bound to get some bad reviews – and many people can spot “grumpy, hard-to-please” people who leave these types of reviews.

(And remember, you are not going to please everyone.)

How To Easily Get Reviews From Your Customers

Since reviews are so important to a local business, you should try to get reviews from happy customers.

One way to do that is to give customers a short URL that links directly to your Business Profile review form and ask them (politely) to leave a review for you.

You can put this URL at the bottom of your signature line in your emails, on a feedback card that people can pick up at your place of business, on your website, or on the bottom of your receipts.

Getting your short review URL is easy to do using any of the three ways to manage your Business Profile.

Using search, go to your Business Profile manager panel, click on Get more reviews and a Share box will appear.

You can then share your review link through any of the methods that appear, or you can copy the short URL and give that URL to customers.

Get short review URLScreenshot from Business Profile manager on search, January 2022

If you use the Maps App, you can easily request reviews from customers by searching for your business name, then go to the Get More Reviews panel and click Share Profile.

You will then see the text that will be shown to your customer when shared.

You can share multiple ways, but the most popular is via email or text message.

Always make sure you have permission to send emails or text messages before you send.

You can also copy and paste the short URL and use that via other methods.

If you manage multiple profiles, log in to your Business Profile Manager, select the business you want to create the short review URL for, and click on Get More Reviews.

Next click Share Review Form.

Get short URL for reviewsScreenshot of Business Profile Manager, January 2022

You can then either share the shortened review link via the options listed, or you can copy the shorted URL and share.

Short review URLScreenshot of Business Profile Request Reviews form, January 2022

It’s against Google review policies to solicit reviews from customers by offering an incentive or bribe for a review (i.e. “You’ll be entered into a contest to win X if you leave us a review.”).

You also cannot have a “review station” located at your business – like an iPad kiosk so people can leave reviews for you at your business.

If you get reviews that violate Google’s review policies, they will likely get reported and the reviews you received will probably be removed.

How To Remove Inappropriate Reviews

Google has policies on what people can and cannot say on reviews and other user-generated content on their platforms.

You may find that a review you receive violates one of those guidelines.

As an example, perhaps the consumer uses profanity in a review they left for your business.

You can flag inappropriate reviews that violate Google’s policies and request Google remove the review by flagging it as inappropriate.

(You cannot flag reviews you simply don’t like.)

If you have only one location, the easiest way to flag a review is through Google search or on the Maps App.

First, find the review that violates Google’s guidelines, then click on the three dots by the review and click Report Review:

Use the Maps App to report a reviewScreenshot of Google Maps App, January 2022

Next, select which of Google’s terms the review violates and then click the Report button.

You’ll receive an email in approximately 3–5 days with Google’s decision on whether or not they will remove the review.

If you have more than one location (but under 100 locations), then you can use the Review Removal Tool. (Make sure you’re logged in to your Business Profile email account.)

This tool makes it easy for you to flag and report reviews and check the status of reviews you’ve already reported.

While you’re logged into your Business Profile email account, visit the Review Removal Tool.

You’ll see all the businesses you have in that account.

Select the business that you’d like to report the review for and click the Continue button.

Review ToolScreenshot of Review Removal Tool, January 2022

Then select that you would like to Report a new review for removal and click Continue.

Report a new reviewScreenshot of Review Removal Tool, January 2022

Next, select the review that has the violation and click Report.

Report an inappropriate reviewScreenshot of Review Removal Tool, January 2022

You’ll then be asked what Google rule the review violates. After you choose the violation, click Report.

What rules did the review violateScreenshot of Review Removal Tool, January 2022

You will then see a Thank You screen letting you know that Google received your removal request.

You should also receive an email from Google letting you know they are reviewing your removal request.

How To Check Review Removal Status

To check a review removal status, go to the Review Removal Tool and select the business that you reported the review for and select the Check the status of a review I reported previously radio button.

If Google has evaluated the review and made a decision, you’ll see the ruling in the Decision column.

Review removal decisionScreenshot of Review Removal Tool, January 2022

 

Review removal: decision still pendingScreenshot of Review Removal Tool, January 2022

If you disagree with the ruling, you can Appeal eligible reviews – but be forewarned, it takes a lot to get a review removed after it’s already been evaluated and no policy violation has been found.

Remember, only flag or report reviews with content that violates Google policies.

Don’t flag reviews with content that you just don’t like.

Also, don’t flag reviews for people that you say “aren’t your customer.”

Google doesn’t get involved when merchants and customers disagree about things like that, since there’s no way to determine who’s right.

So be sure to read the policy before flagging a review.

After you flag a review, it can take a few days for a review to be evaluated by the Google Business Profile support team and for you to hear back with a ruling.

Most reviews are processed in about three days.

Note: To flag inappropriate third-party reviews – like hotel reviews – you must contact the third-party review provider directly.

After they remove or change the review on their website, the update will show on your Business Profile.

Help, Some Of My Customer Reviews Are Missing!

You may know about a customer review that just isn’t showing up in your Google Business Profile Knowledge Panel.

There are several reasons why reviews may be removed or not show up on a Google Business Profile.

In most cases, reviews are removed for policy violations like spam or inappropriate content.

Google uses automated spam detection to remove reviews that it considers to possibly be spam.

Google doesn’t reinstate reviews that were removed for spam reasons.

However, because spam detection isn’t perfect, some legitimate reviews may accidentally be removed.

For instance, if you have reviews that you feel were legitimate (i.e., not spam), and you were recently suspended, reviews can sometimes be removed from a Business Profile after a Business Profile reinstatement.

If you lost reviews when your profile was disabled or suspended and then reinstated, contact GBP support for help.

Also, if you recently had two Business Profiles merged, you may notice that some reviews take longer to show up on some platforms, like Google Search or Google Maps. Delays because of a merge should be resolved within a few days.

Note: If you set a future opening date for your business that hasn’t opened yet, reviews left before your business opens to the public will be removed.

If none of these scenarios fit your situation and you truly are missing legitimate reviews left by customers, contact Google Business Profile Support.

Google Reviews DO Matter

Google Business Profile reviews really do matter – but so do other review sites. Google often shows third-party review sites in a business’ Knowledge Panel.

So even though Google is by far the powerhouse when it comes to reviews, remember to also work on getting reviews from other review sites and monitoring/responding there, as well.

More resources:


Featured Image: HAKINMHAN/Shutterstock




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What Is A Sitemap? Do I Need One?

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What Is A Sitemap? Do I Need One?

Sitemap. While this is a term you may be familiar with, what does it mean?

Do you need one? Where do you find one? How do you make one?

These are valid questions; for some, there might be more than one answer.

Today, we will take a deep dive into the sitemap world, so that you can walk away with the necessary answers and confidence around the topic!

What Is A Sitemap?

Let’s start here.

Defining a sitemap is essential for several reasons, and we are going to go through the two main types that apply to technical SEO: XML and HTML sitemaps.

XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap is a file that provides a website’s essential pages, videos, and other important files for Google to discover when crawling the site.

Not only are these listed in the file, but the sitemap can also provide details for Google to know – for instance, when the page was last updated, and if the content is available in other languages.

As I mentioned, you can also provide details about content types like videos, photos, and news-related content, specifically in your XML sitemap.

According to the Google Developers Sitemaps section, the following can be included for specific types of content in your sitemap:

  • A sitemap video entry can specify the video running time, rating, and age-appropriateness rating.
  • A sitemap image entry can include the location of the images included on a page.
  • A sitemap news entry can include the article title and publication date.

Next, we will talk about what an HTML sitemap is and the differences between the two.

HTML Sitemap

An HTML sitemap is more targeted for users on your site than for Google.

This is a page that exists on your site and has links to the pages on your website – and in some cases, includes a little context into what those pages are.

Google mentions that you should try to establish a consistent and clear hierarchy on the HTML sitemap as, although not its purpose, it can help with indexation.

You can think of an HTML sitemap as a directory that users can leverage to navigate your site and find what they need.

An HTML sitemap should not be an attempt to replace the important pages in your site’s navigation.

XML Sitemaps Vs. HTML Sitemaps

So, what are the key differences between these two types of sitemaps? Let’s review.

XML

  • The intent is for Google and other bots.
  • There is no hierarchy.
  • Used primarily for indexing.
  • You can submit via Google Webmaster Tools.

HTML

  • The intent is for users.
  • A hierarchy should be used.
  • No place to submit in Google Webmaster Tools.

Do You Need A Sitemap?

If you are wondering if you need a sitemap, that depends!

First, let’s discuss the XML sitemap. There are a few questions you can ask to determine if you need an XML sitemap:

  • How big is your site? Is it large enough that Google may miss newly updated content when it is crawling?
  • Is your site relatively new? If so, it may not have a ton of external links on the Internet that point to it to help Google discover it. Even if your site isn’t new, and you don’t have external links, your answer to this question should be yes.
  • Is your site content heavy? Do you have many photos, videos, news content, etc.?
  • Does your site need a better architecture that results in pages not being well linked to each other? This can also be the case with archived and orphan pages you want to be indexed.

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then yes, it is best practice to have an XML sitemap.

Even if you answered no to all of the above, I would recommend an XML sitemap for a few reasons; If your site grows, expands its scope, and other situations may arise, having a sitemap will be beneficial!

Next, let’s review whether it makes sense for you to have an HTML sitemap.  Depending on where you look, you will find that answer to be yes or no.

HTML sitemaps are known to be an older concept, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one.

The XML sitemap has the information needed for Google to crawl, index, and learn other important information about these pages. However, an XML sitemap does not show hierarchy like an HTML sitemap.

Google will crawl the links on your site, and including an HTML sitemap could allow Google to understand your site’s architecture and relationships better.

This is even more useful for sites that have an incredibly large number of pages.

So, is having an HTML sitemap critical? No, it is not.

It is also not a cure-all for a poorly architected and nested website. While it isn’t a critical element of success, it has shown benefits that make having one a best practice.

To close this topic out, I recommend you have an XML and HTML sitemap because let’s be honest, why not, when the pros outweigh the cons very clearly?

Now you may be wondering how to create these two assets and what to do with them – so, let’s jump into some ways you can create these files and where to put them on the site.

How To Create An XML Sitemap

First, we will go over how you can generate sitemaps from scratch, and then we will get into some great tools that can do it for you.

XML sitemaps have specific criteria in order to be rendered valid.

Screenshot from lowes.com, January 2023

Below are a few specific requirements for XML sitemaps:

  • Begin with a <urlset> tag and end with that tag closing </urlset>.
  • Include the protocol you are using within the <urlset> tag.
  • Each URL entry must have a <url> tag as a parent XML tag.
  • Include a <loc> child entry for each <url> parent tag.
  • Each sitemap can only contain up to 50,000 URLs and 50MB.
  • Must be UTF-encoded.

XML Sitemap Best Practices

Now, let’s look at some key best practices when it comes to creating XML sitemaps:

  • Only URLs you want to be indexed should appear in your sitemap. This means no redirected URLs, non-canonical URLs, or pages marked as no-index.
  • Do not use session Ids.
  • Only include the primary if you have two versions (mobile and desktop) of your site.
  • Include media assets like videos, photos, and news items.
  • Use hreflang to show Google that there are alternative language versions of your website.
  • Google documentation notes it leverages <lastmod>, but only if it’s consistent and verifiable. If you can’t keep this accurate, don’t use it.
  • Google ignores the <priority> and <changefreq> tags at this time, according to John Mueller on this Search Off the Record podcast.
  • Google will not crawl your URLs in the order they are listed, nor does it guarantee indexation.
  • Your sitemap should be updated regularly – automatically, or manually – or Google may not trust it.

Now, if you felt lost reading those beginning requirements, that is okay, because there are tools to help you achieve your desired outcomes! We will go over some later in this article.

Check out the refined version below:

refined sitemap of lowes.comScreenshot from lowes.com, January 2023

How To Create An HTML Sitemap

When putting together an HTML sitemap, remember its purpose is to serve a user on the site and help Google understand the hierarchy of your website.

You do not want to no index this page from Google; keep it crawlable!

You will want to ensure you don’t just throw thousands of links on an HTML sitemap page with no sense of organization, as this won’t help anyone – bots included.

Home Depot sitemapScreenshot from Home Depot, January 2023

HTML Sitemap Best Practices

Let’s go over a few quick best practices when it comes to HTML sitemaps:

  • Arrange the page’s structure to align with your website’s structure. You will want to make sure that the hierarchy is easily understood.
  • The HTML sitemap should be located somewhere the user can easily find it. You will often see it in the footer links of a website.
  • Use anchor text that is valuable to the user.

Need a little help getting started? No worries – there are plenty of tools to help you.

Sitemap Generator Tools

There are a number of tools to help you generate different types of sitemaps. Let’s go over a few now.

XML Sitemap Generator Tools

  • Screaming Frog – This tool is a great option for generating a sitemap, especially if you want to generate one after crawling your URLs. Screaming Frog is free if you have under 1,000 URLs, but you would have to buy a license if you have more.
  • XML-Sitemaps.com – This web-based application allows you to enter your website URL and it generates an XML file for you. This is a free tool for up to 500 URLs.

Depending on which CMS you are leveraging, there are also thousands of XML sitemap generator plug-ins, but be cautious as even the best generator tools have their limitations, so make sure to double-check the output.

Here are a few popular XML sitemap plugins for WordPress:

HTML Sitemap Generator Tools

  • com: this is a free online tool where you can scan your website URL or upload a document to generate an HTML sitemap. As we discussed earlier, there may be better approaches than a generator if your site is poorly architected.
  • Crawler: Like Eli mentions, if you have a large site and are already using a crawler like OnCrawl, DeepCrawl, Screaming Frog, or SiteBulb, you can leverage the output from a crawl to help generate your HTML sitemap.

Like XML sitemaps, there are also a variety of CMS plugins for creating HTML sitemaps. Here are a few for WordPress:

In Conclusion

Sitemaps have existed in the SEO world for some time as a method for helping search engines discover and crawl websites.

And, while having a sitemap isn’t always necessary for every site, it certainly doesn’t hurt – and can be especially useful for both new and large sites.

When you are determining your next steps for creating a sitemap for your website – whether XML or HTML – I hope you can leverage this guide to decide which path makes the most sense for your site’s needs.

More resources: 


Featured Image: Sammby/Shutterstock



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Keyword Mapping. A Practical Guide for the Curious

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Keyword Mapping. A Practical Guide for the Curious

Deciding whether a keyword should be targeted by a separate page or clustered with other keywords is a common problem in SEO. Keyword mapping is a process aimed at solving this.

Keyword mapping is popularly defined as assigning keywords to pages. But what you really need to solve the problem is assigning topics to content types

In this article, I’ll explain the benefits of this approach and, more importantly, I’ll show you the process. No templates required.

Benefits of keyword mapping (the alternative way) 

Fact 1. Google may see seemingly different keywords as the same topic.

For example, we rank for these keywords in the top 10 with a single page: 

  • seo basics”
  • how to use seo” 
  • beginner’s guide to seo”
  • getting started with seo”
  • seo knowledge”

Fact 2. Conversely, Google may see seemingly similar keywords as different topics. 

For example, let’s compare “digital marketing” with “online marketing.” I’d say those two keywords are pretty close to each other. Google disagrees. 

Low SERP similarity score signals potentially different topics
Everywhere you look, the same story. Top-ranking pages and our SERP similarity score (100-point scale; the more, the higher similarity) say that these are completely different topics SEO-wise.

The above two facts are also reasons why keyword mapping by just relying on keywords is not the optimal way. You won’t know whether you’re wasting your time targeting the same topic with different keywords or just “confusing” Google. 

But why content types instead of pages or even URLs? Because before you decide what page will be used to target the keyword, you’ll need to identify the search intent of the keyword. And a good starting point for that is identifying the dominating type of content on the first page of Google. 

To sum up, the benefits of keyword mapping using topics and content types are: 

  • Seeing keywords the same way Google sees them: as topics and subtopics. 
  • Incorporating search intent into the process. 
  • Keeping an organized list of topics, which also helps to prevent duplicating content.

Note

Keyword mapping can’t substitute keyword research. While keyword mapping is basically a form of organizing keywords, keyword research provides you the keywords and the confidence that: 

  • Your keywords have traffic potential.
  • You can match the search intent behind your keywords.
  • Your keywords will bring valuable traffic. 
  • You can rank for those keywords. 

Learn how to choose the right keywords with our full guide.

Going further, we’ll look at two levels of using this method: the fast lane and the more thorough one. 

Learn more: What Is Semantic Search? How It Impacts SEO 

Level 1 – Fast, reasonable job

You’ll need a keyword research tool that can do keyword grouping based on what’s on the SERP, such as Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. In the case of this tool: 

  1. Enter your keywords
  2. Open Matching terms report
  3. Go to the Parent topics tab 
Three steps to find Parent Topics via Keywords Explorer

If you click on a Parent Topic, you will find separate topics “distilled” from your keywords. So for example, you will see keywords like “can babies get covid” and “babies and covid” grouped under the same topic. 

Keywords grouped under the same Parent Topic

Sidenote.

To identify the Parent Topic, we take the #1 ranking page for your keyword and find the keyword responsible for sending the most traffic to that page.

At this level of keyword mapping, your target keyword is the Parent Topic (not the keywords inside that Parent Topic). 

The next step is to identify the content type. The easiest way to do this is to see what kind of content dominates the first three to five results in Google. 

Typical content types are:

  • Articles
  • Videos
  • Product pages
  • Product category pages
  • Landing pages 
Top-ranking pages with a dominating content type
For example, the dominating content type for “teething symptoms” is the article.

As a result, assigning topics to content types will give you a super simple yet highly actionable database.

Topic Content type
Teething symptoms Article
When do babies roll over Article
Baby formula Mixed (product pages on top)
When can babies have water Article

Sidenote.

What about secondary keywords or supporting keywords? We recommend picking them in the content creation phase as subtopics needed to cover a topic in full. Learn a few ways you can find them here.

So this is the fast method. The great thing about it is that it automates keyword grouping by using real SERP data (and not just semantics). 

However, it has its downsides too. Sometimes, it “hides” less popular topics that could potentially be targeted with a separate page. Here’s why. 

The parent keyword is derived from the top-ranking page on the SERP. If Google thinks that the best answer to the query is found on a page that is targeting a broader topic, it will still use it. This may result in a confusing SERP like this one: 

Confusing SERP example
The top result is a featured snippet taken from a page with a broader topic. Hence, the Parent Topic (here seen as “Top keyword”) in Ahrefs. But pretty much every other page on the SERP targets the keywords directly.

This kind of situation probably won’t happen too often. But if you want to squeeze everything out of your keyword mapping process, you need to go to level 2. 

Level 2 – Thorough but time consuming

In level 2, we’re going to take a closer look at the Parent Topics to see what’s in them. 

  1. First, you should pick a Parent Topic.
  2. Sort keywords inside the topic by KD (Keyword Difficulty). Big differences in KD will be an indication of a different set of pages on the SERP.
  3. If you see a keyword with a significantly different KD than the Parent Topic, click on the SERP button.
  4. See if the top-ranking pages, excluding the first result, talk about the keyword instead of the Parent Topic. You can use the Compare with feature for a quick overview of the situation. The lower the SERP similarity score, the higher the probability you’re looking at two different topics. 
How to investigate Parent Topics

Let’s look at a couple of examples. 

In the first example, we’ve got a keyword with a KD score that’s 20 higher than the Parent Topic. Upon investigating, we see that we may be dealing with two separate topics: The SERP similarity is quite low. Also, there is only one common result, while other pages target the keyword directly. 

Keywords grouped under the same topic but have dissimilar SERPs

Next example. Here we have “teething symptoms” (KD 65) and “when do babies get molars” (KD 28). Looking at SERP similarity, we see that this, again, may be a case of two topics. 

Low SERP similarity between two keywords

But there’s more. Only the bottom results target the keyword directly. Others talk about teething timelines, stages, charts, etc. This is a hint for yet another way to rank for the keyword. 

Only bottom results target the keyword directly

Generally speaking, when you see that you’re dealing with a separate topic “in disguise,” the decision comes down to:

  1. Targeting the Parent Topic anyway. For example, if the top result is a featured snippet, you may be able to win it with a page on a relevant broader topic. 
  2. Marking the keyword as a separate topic and targeting it directly with a separate page. In this case, add that keyword as a topic to target and note down the content type. 
  3. Turning to SERP analysis in tougher cases (like our example above). 

Final thoughts 

Feel free to customize the process and add your own data points. If you feel like going a step further and assigning URLs, your website folders, or introducing some kind of prioritization (e.g., business potential), this won’t hurt. 

However, keep in mind that keyword mapping is not a good way to design your entire website structure. Most often than not, not all pages on your site should be search-based. 

What are the next steps after keyword mapping? 

Got comments or questions? Ping me on Twitter or Mastodon



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Of all the many, many functions available in Google Ads, I have a few that are my favorites. And sitelink assets – previously known as sitelink extensions – are at the top of my list.

Why? Because they’re so versatile. You can do almost anything with them if you think through your strategy carefully.

For example, you can use the mighty sitelink in your advertising to:

  • Promote low search volume themes.
  • Push lagging products out the door.
  • Maximize hot sellers.
  • Highlight certain product categories.
  • Answer common questions.
  • Handle PR problems.

And that’s just a start! Sitelink assets can almost do it all.

Best Practices For Using Sitelink Assets Extensions

If you truly want to get the most out of your sitelinks, you need to think about your intention.

To help you with that, I’m going to lay out a few sitelink guidelines.

1. Get clear on your objectives. Before you start, you need to think about your goals. What are you trying to achieve with these assets? Are you advertising products or services? Will the asset work well with both branded and non-branded keywords? Your answers to these questions will help determine if your sitelinks are versatile and useful to the searcher.

2. Use sitelinks as part of your larger strategy. Don’t think of your sitelinks in isolation. You should also consider the accompanying ad, landing page, and other assets. Make sure they all work together in service to your overarching strategy.

3. Use a mix of sitelinks. Sitelinks can serve multiple purposes, so make sure you’re using a variety. For example, you don’t want to use every sitelink on an ad to promote on-sale products. Instead, use a mix. One could promote an on-sale product, one could generate leads, one could highlight a new product category, and one could direct prospective clients to useful information.

4. Create landing pages for your sitelinks. Ideally, you want to send users to landing pages that tightly correlate with your sitelink instead of just a regular page on your website.

5. Track sitelink performance and adjust. It’s not enough to set up sitelinks. You should also track them to see which links are getting traction and which ones are not. This doesn’t mean that all sitelinks should perform equally (more on this below), but it does mean they should perform well given their type and objectives.

Why it’s Better To Use A Mix Of Sitelink Assets

Let’s dive deeper into this idea of using a mix of sitelinks by looking at an example.

In a new client account, we created four different types of sitelinks:

  • Two sitelinks are product-focused (as requested by the client).
  • One sitelink connects users with an engineer to learn more about the product (“Speak to an Engineer”). It has more of a sales focus.
  • One sitelink allows users to learn more about the products without speaking to an engineer (“What is?”).

The “What is?” sitelink is outperforming the “Speak to an Engineer” sitelink when we measure by CTR. While we need more data before making any changes, I predict we’ll eventually swap out the sales-y “Speak to an Engineer” sitelink for something else.

The fact that the educational link (“What is?”) is performing better than the sales-y link (“Speak to an Engineer”) isn’t too surprising in this case. The product is a new, cutting-edge robot that not many people are aware of, yet. They want more info before talking to someone.

Screenshot by author, January 2023

By using a mix of sitelinks, and assessing the performance of each, we gained a lot of valuable information that is helping to guide our strategy for this account. So going with a mix of sitelinks is always a good idea. You never know what you’ll discover!

Sitelink Assets Examples

Now, let’s look at some specific examples of sitelink assets in Google Ads.

Example 1: Chromatography

Sitelinks extension - Chromatography exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

Application Search: This ad is for a highly technical product that can be used in a wide variety of applications. (Chromatography is a laboratory technique for separating mixtures.) So putting “application search” in a sitelink here might make sense. It helps prospective clients find what they’re looking for.

Sign up and Save Big: A good sitelink for lead generation and potential revenue.

Technical Support: I’m not a big fan of putting technical support in sitelinks. Tech support seems more targeted to current users rather than prospective users. But who knows, maybe they really do want to help current users get tech support via their advertising.

Guides and Posters: Again, this sitelink is a bit unusual, but it might be appropriate for this product. Perhaps people are downloading branded posters and posting them in their workplaces. If so, it’s a great way to build brand awareness.

Example 2: Neuroscience Courses

Sitelink Extensions - Nueroscience courses exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

I love everything about these sitelinks! The advertising is using them to reach people in all phases of the buyer journey.

For people not ready to commit:

  • Study Neuroscience: This sitelink is broad and informational. It’s helpful to people who have just started to explore their options for studying neuroscience.
  • Get Course Brochure: This sitelink is also great for people in the research phase. And while we mostly live in an online world, some people still prefer to consume hard-copy books, brochures, etc. With this sitelink, the school is covering its bases.

For people getting close to committing:

  • Online Short Course: This is the course the school offers. It’s a great sitelink for those almost ready to sign up.

For people ready to sign up:

  • Register Online Now: This is the strongest call to action for those ready to commit. It takes people directly to the signup page.

Example 3: Neuroscience Degrees

Let’s look at another example from the world of neuroscience education: this time for a neuroscience degree program.

Sitelink extensions - neuroscience degree exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

In contrast to the previous two examples, the sitelinks in this ad aren’t as strong.

Academics Overview: This sitelink seems more appropriate for a broad term search, such as a search on the school’s name. If the searcher is looking for a specific degree program (which seems like the intention based on the term and the ad), the sitelinks should be something specific to that particular degree program.

Scholarships: Just as with the above sitelink, “Scholarships” doesn’t seem very helpful either. The topic of scholarships is important—but probably doesn’t need to be addressed until the person determines that this school is a good fit.

Example 4: Code Security

Next, let’s look at two Google search ads for code security products.

Sitelink extensions - code security exampleScreenshot from Google, January 2023

 

The sitelinks in these two ads look like typical assets you’d find for SaaS, cloud-based, or tech companies. They click through to a lot of helpful information, such as product plans and success stories.

I particularly like the Most Common Risks sitelink in the second ad. It leads to a helpful article that would be great for engaging top-of-funnel leads.

On the flip side, I’m not a big fan of the Blog sitelink in the first ad. “Blog” simply isn’t very descriptive or helpful.

Still, there are no right or wrong sitelinks here. And it would be interesting to test my theory that blog content is not a top-performing asset!

Sitelink Assets Are More Than An Afterthought

I hope I’ve convinced you of the usefulness and versatility of sitelinks when created with specific objectives that align with your broader strategy.

So don’t create your sitelink assets as an afterthought.

Because if you give them the careful consideration they deserve, they’ll serve you well.

Note: Google sitelink assets were previously known as sitelink extensions and renamed in September 2022.

More resources:


Featured Image: Thaspol Sangsee/Shutterstock



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